Getting started is (damn) hard

Two posts back, I made a short video in which I talk about getting started with exercise, and how sometimes, I really am not in to it. I said it was discipline that gets me past not wanting to do it, and keeps me going. That’s completely true. But I think I didn’t go into how I do that, because I think I made it sound like, “All you have to do is just do it and it’ll get done.” That’s kind of silly. Like, “No kidding!”

What I was trying to say and didn’t do as good a job of as I’d have hoped for was that the single-most difficult part of exercise for me is getting started. From the time I just decide to do it and when I get started, it’s pretty easy. But to get to the point where I commit mentally and begin preparations for a run? That’s the difficult part.

I run every other day. As an older guy, I need the recovery time. I know there are lots of folks my age out there who run 5-6 times a week. That’s great for them! However, for me, it’s just not feasible. I don’t want to invite the possibility of injury, and so far, this regimen has been doing well for me. My run times are steadily decreasing, my pace increasing, and my resting heart rate decreasing. My cardio health is improving, and I continue to make solid, steady progress. The down side of running every other day is it gives me a lot of time to begin dreading a run.

I don’t dread every run. Not even every other run. But every now and then, the last thing I want to do is go out, run hard, and be out of breath with my heart beating out of my chest. Don’t get me wrong: I actually do enjoy running now, and there are days when I really look forward to my runs. Heck, there are days when I’m obsessed with getting out on the road and running. But for the times when I’m not so motivated, I need to draw on an inner strength and discipline that sometimes is hard to harness.

That’s where perseverance and discipline really comes into play. I talked about perseverance on my PaleoMarine blog, and it’s the single most important factor in my success in losing over 140 lbs. This is another case of the answer being simple but implementation being difficult. It’s easy to say, “Just push past the negativity and start and get it done,” but actually doing it is another thing entirely.

I get it. I’m right there with you.

I don’t know how you motivate yourself, or what drives you to make yourself better, healthier, or more fit. That’s something you need to discover for yourself. I don’t have the answer here for you for that one magical thing that can make getting started easier. Heck, if I knew that, I’d be using it myself! The only things that have helped me and may help you are the following:

  • Fake it ’til you make it. This has been a big one for me. I used to hate running and all exercise. One day on a run, I realized that I would do better during my runs if I liked them, so I decided on the mantra, “I love running.” I would repeat it to myself often during runs, and lo and behold, it worked! I actually enjoy running now!
  • Setting a goal for running pace and distances. I’m not overly competitive, but I do like to take on challenges. I set goals for myself for running pace and distance based on the Marine Corps PFT standards. Now as a National Guard Soldier, I make sure I can exceed those standards to the best of my ability. This drives me to keep going and to get better.
  • Technology. I love tech, and having a Garmin Fenix 3 HR has made collecting data during my runs not just neat, but downright amazing. The data collected during my runs really allows me to analyze my runs from many different angles to compare my efforts and results with previous runs.
  • When all else fails, discipline. I have decided that I will run a minimum of three times a week, with no more than two days off in a row. When I get to that third day, I leave myself no option to consider not running. Perhaps that’s the trick: I don’t allow myself to even consider not running on those days. I can’t put it off if I don’t allow myself the opportunity to call it off. The exception to this rule is bad weather. I won’t run in the rain. Sorry. It’s not happening.

While those work for me, you may have to find what works for you is different. Heck, it may be the same (yay!) and if so, get out there and do it! My life has been improved dramatically not only through my weight loss, but through my fitness. Being more fit has enabled me to experience things I would otherwise not be able to do, and opportunities that would not have been possible for me. It honestly has been a life changer. Getting started can be tough, but once you get going, the momentum will carry you. Just give yourself that nudge to get rolling.

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